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Comforting foods for those shorter darker nights.

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So on the cold November nights I’d like to focus on squashes and pumpkins. With Halloween being over I’m pretty sure all the pumpkins are being sold off much cheaper so I’ve come up with a few recipes that I really love. I do all my recipes dairy free so if you are like me you will know the dairy alternatives that agree with you and you can just substitute them in. I’ve also done these recipes vegetarian but I’ve added little notes where you can bring in some meat if you like meat and want a protein boost. But firstly I thought I’d do my usual and give you just some of the health benefits of these lovely veggies.

Autumn veg – photo M. Wright

They are high in vitamins A, B6 and C. 

They contain foliate which makes both red and white blood cells. Full of fibre. They contain magnesium which is an anti inflammatory and fights depression (great for the winter when it’s so dark), and they also contain roboflavin which is good for our energy supply so even better for the winter when we aren’t getting as much vitamin d from the sun. They contain phosphorus which filters out the waste in the kidneys and potassium to reduce blood pressure. And the last little nugget of information because I promise to keep these parts short, they contain manganese which is helpful for bone strength and it helps to process fat and carbohydrates. So that’s the health part out the way, let’s get on to the important stuff, the eating. 

Squash and rocket soup

*any yellow fleshed squash, pumpkins are great, peeled deseeded and chopped into cubes

*1or 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

*I large onion, peeled and chopped

*oil (butter for a creamier taste but its optional) 

*chicken or vegetable stock

*bag of rocket/baby spinach also works

1. Gently heat the oil (and butter if using) add the onions, squash and garlic and stir. Do not harshly fry. Do this for 5-10 mins ensuring nothing gets colour, we are just starting off the cooking process. If you are in a rush and want to skip this part that’s fine, it still works but this first stage really does give a better taste, I’ve tried both ways. 

2. Add chicken or veg stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer adn simmer stirring occasionally until the squash is tender. When it falls right off a knife when you Pierce the centre you will know its ready. Turn off the heat. 

3. Add a quarter to half of the bag of rocket or spinach. This will wilt naturally in the heat of the soup so there is no need to boil again. Now it seems like you are not putting much in right now but I added too much once and made green soup. But if you can deal with that then trust me it still tastes gorgeous. 

4. With either a hand blender or your food processor liquidise the soup until completely smooth. It will go a bit darker because of the greens in it but if you have judges your amount of spinach or rocket it should still have a dark orange colour. I’ve added too much and it looked like I’d been down to a swamp for lunch. 

5. Return to a very gentle simmer, the lowest heat you can and use the remaining leaves to add some texture. They will not take long to wilt down at all. Check the seasoning and adjust to your taste. Ready to serve. 


For this one if you would like meat in this just gently fry off, steam or bake some small slices or chunks of chicken. This can just be added to the risotto 5 mins before the cooking is complete just to warm back through. 

*oil *onion, finely diced

 *1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed

 *white wine (optional)

 *chicken or vegetable stock

 *finely grayed parmesan

 * squash, finely diced (I love butternut for this risotto)

 *either risotto (arborio) rice or pearl barely. If using pearl barley just cook the grains a little longer than rice as it takes longer to soften but its a great way to get grains in your diet as well. 

*fresh basil to serve 

1. Very gently fry the onions in the oil making sure not to colour. Then add in the garlic stirring and making sure nothing colours or burns. When the onions r softened its time to move on.

2. Stir in the rice or barley and make sure its coated with the oil and onion. If using white wine add now and let the alcohol cook out for a couple of minutes. It’s important with any risotto to stir as much as possible to stop any sticking. 

3. Add in all the squash and make sure that is coated in all the mixture. 

4. Add a ladle of you stock and keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process with stock and stirring until the rice or barley looks like it won’t absorb more liquid. You can check a grain anytime you like to see if it is cooked to your liking. Bit usually this process takes me around 20 mins for arborio rice. 

5. Once you are happy with the way the rice or barley is cooked take it off the heat and add the parmesan, stir until completely melted. Check the seasoning. I very rarely need to add much salt if any because the stock and parmesan is quite salty but freshly ground pepper is lovely. And I can never resist the chance to use fresh basil in any of my food, it truly is a beautiful herb. But if you don’t fancy that or you can’t find any, the risotto will be just lovely as it is.

Squash curry

This one I’ve quite often left in a slow cooker all day. I haven’t cooked a thing and just thrown it all in the slow cooker and left in on low for about 7 or 8 hours, stirring every hour or two, it just takes care of itself and its so comforting to come back on a cold winter night and smell a beautiful curry ready to just devour. 

*chicken, beef, pork or lamb diced can be added to this in stage 1. 

*any squash, cut into chunks

*onion, diced 

*garlic, crushed (I like mine really strong with garlic but 1 clove would be just fine) 

*tinned tomatoes 

*tomato puree

*chick peas, tinned

*garam masala spice mix or paste



1. Heat oil in a pan and sweat off the onions and squash (meat if using) for about 3-5 mins. Add the garlic and tomato puree and mix for 20-30 secs. I like to add my tomato puree to any sauce before I ever add tinned tomatoes because I find adding it at the end can leave a bitter taste. This way the tomato puree has a chance to cook off a little. 

2. Put in the spice mix or paste and stir do everything is completely covered. 

3. Add in the tinned tomatoes and the tinned chip peas ( their water is also fine to use to loosen the sauce) and stir until all mixed. 

4. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for around 20-30 mins if doing it vegetarian or with chicken. If I were using beef, pork or lamb for this though I would tend to transfer to an oven proof dish at this stage and put in an oven on a low heat for 1 or 2 hours covered. If at any point in either of these dishes it starts to go a little dry just add a little water. Once the squash is tender or your meat is cooked the way you prefer add in the spinach and stir. 

5. Take off the heat and and check for seasoning. If using the chickpea water in this recipe it may not need too much salt as the chick peas are usually in salted water. You will know what is right for your taste. As I live alone I will rarely do this and want to cook rice and naan breads just to waste them because I will never eat all that alone so my guilty pleasure is just toasting a pitta bread and getting a steaming bowl of this and dunking my bread in it. But whatever you like with a curry you can do. There are no rules. Apart from enjoy. 

Roast veg pasta (add chicken if you fancy but the veggie version is actually lovely) 


*onion roughly chopped (red or white) 

*peppers, roughly chopped, any colours you like

*any squash, peeled and cubed

* tomatoes (cherry are lovely roasted) 

*courgettes, thickly sliced

*mushrooms, optional but add in the final 10 mins of cooking as they tend to shrivel if left a long time. 

*pasta, any kind you like. 

*parmesan (optional) 

*dried mixed herbs

Just a quick note on this if you are cooking for a large amount of people or if you just fancy doing a batch of this veg pasta to freeze for yourself for a busy day when u don’t have time to cook, just add one or two tins of tomatoes to a pan and tip all the roast vegetables in it to warm through, then add the pasta. Portion as you would like to store and this is a very cheap way to make the meal stretch much farther. 

1. Chop all the veg into roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Preheat the oven and get a tray big enough to get all the veg in a relatively even layer. 

2. Pour the oil over the top and season, sprinkle the dried herbs over the top and mix thoroughly. I find it therapeutic doing this by hand but if you like to use tongs or a spoon just make sure it’s all evenly coated. 

3. Put the tray in the oven for around 25-30 mins turning once or twice. If using the mushrooms just cut them into quarters and put them in for the last 10 mins.. 

4. While the veg is roasting and almost ready boil the pasta in salted water for 10-12 mins and drain. Mix all the veg into the pasta and serve sprinkled with cheese and chopped basil. Ready to be enjoyed. Can also be eaten cold. 

I hope one of these recipes tickles your fancy this week. I like to research my veg before I eat it so that I feel like I’m at least doing something good for myself in the day. I hope it’s been interesting. Have a fantastic day and take care all. M

Blog this week written by :

our Resident Foodie volunteer. :}

Author: Families in Trauma and Recovery

"Ordinary People helping Ordinary People" . We are a peer led, lived experience organisation looking for ways to support others who may need a helping hand.

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